Tricks of the Trade: Some Advice from Successful Business Alumni

What happens after graduation? That was the opening question (and the question on every student’s mind) at the College of Business Alumni Leaders panel. It was a loaded question for so early in the morning, but it was the perfect way to kick off Alumni Leaders on Campus Day.

Alumni Business Leaders on Campus.

Professor Anthony Fruzzetti moderated the panel of six alumni, who were eager to share all they had learned since their time at JWU.

The Panelists

The panelists during the event.

(From left to right)
Rachel Davies ’17
graduated with a degree in Accounting. She started out working in public accounting, but eventually realized it wasn’t for her. She made the switch to advising at PwC, and now works in their risk department on internal audits.

Nakesha Wilson ’14 graduated with a degree in Accounting. She worked in public accounting and auditing before switching to the private sector. She is now a Senior Financial Analyst at CVS, working on financial budgeting and forecasting.

Hubert Klein ’86 graduated with a degree in Accounting and now has over 30 years of experience in forensic accounting and litigation. He is a partner and practice leader at Financial Advisory Services, specializing in Forensic, Litigation and Valuation Services.

Henry Lewandowski ’96, ’98 MBA graduated with a degree in Business Management and an MBA in Management. He has worked in corporate sales for almost 20 years, and is now president and CEO of his own company, HL Innovative, that specializes in sales, marketing and branding solutions.

Keiko Carberry ’14 graduated with a degree in Business Management and began working for Kohl's right out of college. She's been climbing the ranks ever since, becoming a merchant manager, a human resources operations manager and now an assistant store manager.

Kara Zanni ’10 graduated with a degree in Retail Marketing and Fashion Merchandising. Working full time through college, she was already a store manager before graduating. From there, she ventured into product innovation and development, marketing and electronic commerce. She is now a senior digital marketing partner vice president for Citizens Bank.

Each panelist described what it was like transitioning from a student to a professional after graduation, and the things they did to get where they are today. They each offered a great piece of advice to students.

"Focus on the experience, not the dollars."

“Be disciplined. Don't take advantage if there is leniency, because people will notice,” Zanni shared. She noted that her discipline and her willingness to take on new projects is what secured her position when everyone around her was being fired during the last recession.

“Professionalism is important. You should be able to prove that you deserve the position you're in,” said Carberry. She has often managed people older than her, who have been with the company longer. But she credits her success to always being professional, punctual and leading by example.

The panelists during the event.

“Focus on the experience, not the dollars,” Lewandowski began. He shared that taking risks in his career, rather than staying in a financially stable job, is what got him where he is today. He also emphasized the importance of interacting with others. “Always operate with integrity,” he said, “because that's how you get people to respect you.”

Klein echoed the importance of not focusing so much on salary. “Money is great, but the job has to be your passion,” he said. “If you love something and do it well, the money will always come.”

“While you're still in college, seek out internships in your field,” Wilson said. She shared the story of how she used the connections she had to secure a full time job while she was still finishing her senior year.

“Be open to new knowledge and what other people have to say,” said Davies. “You want to be a person that people want to work with.” She also discussed how important networking is, and how much it helped her get the position she has now.

Next, the panelists shared some of their favorite memories from JWU, what they look for when they hire employees and how students can improve their personal brand by being mindful of what they put on social media. After a Q & A session, the panelists took a break before heading to the round table sessions. Wilson, Klein and Davies joined the Accounting and Finance round table, while Lewandowski, Carberry and Zanni joined the Business Management and Marketing round table. 

The accounting and finance round table.


The alumni dove into a lot of what they had talked about during the panel, and they gave students the chance to talk directly with them and ask questions about their own future careers. The same themes of taking risks, going after what you're passionate about and building your personal brand were prevalent in the discussion.

“Change of career is normal. You have to find what fits you,” Klein told a student, who had asked about the difficulties of changing careers within the finance industry.

Over at the Marketing and Business Management round table, Lewandowski reiterated the importance of cultivating a personal brand and building relationships with others. “In a world of technology you have to maintain the human connection,” he said. “From a competitive perspective, others aren’t doing it. That personal touch will set you apart.”

The marketing and business management round table.


Students came away very happy and inspired by the advice they had received. “We're all trying to figure out our path, so it was nice to hear from them that it's okay to try different things and take the risks now,” said Bianca Carangelo '19.

And for the alumni, the whole day was an incredible experience as well. “It was moving to walk down the street and see all the developments and changes and excitement on campus,” said Lewandowski. “It shows that in today's world environment Johnson & Wales continues to be a trend setting college experience. They've made the right investments, the buildings are in great shape and the students are fired up — it's like I never left!”